It is the Eve of Samhain.
The veil between the worlds is thinning and the Month of the Dragon is coming to a close. What better time to weave a tale to curl every hair on a Dragon-lover’s head: a tale of persecution, demonization, exile, and near extinction. A tale of the Dark Times and the hope given Dragons in the Otherworld.
The Dark Times, though starting in the Near East, are today considered European in temperament and scope. It all began with the advent of the Common Era and Christianity replacing Dragon-friendly pagan beliefs. Scaled, with calid breath, our friends were suddenly transformed forces of nature into the minions of the Devil, personae which put them squarely in the sights of every knight and would-be saint from Palestine to the Gulf of Bothnia.
By the Age of Chivalry, Dragon Quest was the sport du jour, with many a young knight breaking his bones in the pursuit of their elusive quarry. Nine times out of ten, the creatures actually slain not true Dragons (TDs were far too clever and fey to be caught by bumbling disbelievers), with marsh drachs and slow-witted fen flappers the most common victims. In fact, even King Pellinore’s ravaging beast fame was, by all accounts, not a Dragon but a Loch Worm, one of the least sociable pseudo species.
Still, the anti-Dragon sentiments and assaults on weyrs (especially during hatching time) took a heavy toll on the enchantments. The great forests they relied upon for food and haven were felled to make room for towns and fields; the sacred groves and holy wells which illumined the ley lines were replaced by churches and shrines of the new religion, Christianity. Magic was fading from the Old World, leaving little room or need for Dragons save as legendary curiosities, much like the Faerie folk, Silkes, Unicorns, and the very rare Fivergriffs.
Even Celtic lands, Dragon havens for centuries, were no longer safe. Their Druidic allies were struggling for their own existence and any association with Dragons greatly increasing their peril. Without friends, enchantment choices in an increasingly hostile world became increasingly limited.
In the tenth century, apocryphal tales about the coming end of days stoked public fears beyond reason. This was a time when the Antichrist and his creatures were very real beings bringing very real torment. It took only a little fine-tuning of Sabbath sermons and the “divine” law of the land to raise apocalyptic specters and make Dragons anathema from one end of the continent to the other.
Fight or flight were the choices at hand. And while a few Dragons stood their ground, more saw the wisdom in retreat, emigrating across the Atlantic to North America or, as was more common, being welcomed into the mystical Otherworld by the Faerie. There Dragons stayed, watchers still, seen by a few keen-sighted kindred spirits, especially at Samhain. For on October 31, the veil between the world of the mystical and the world of humans, thins, and travel between the two is, while not always common, at least possible.
Fortunately, the worst anti-Dragon attitudes of the Dark Times are a relic of the past; Dragons have returned to the everyday world in all their glory. No one is sure, even now, what the tipping point was that induced Dragons to come out of the mists. New Agers suggest that it is connected to the new millennium, while Neo-Darwinists lean towards the need for self-preservation in the wake of unprecedented global warfare and human population explosions. Certainly, the late-Victorian Celtic/Druid resurgence helped pave the way by softening public attitudes toward our spiky-wiky friends. Whatever the cause, we have all benefited immensely from their return, for we are blessed to share in the Dragon Renaissance.
So, when you are out trick-or-treating tomorrow night, keep your mind open and your eyes peeled. And remember, if it is true that Dragons need us, it is a greater truth that we need them more.
Have you had a Samhain/Halloween Dragon encounter? Please share!
This is your last chance contribute a Month of the Dragon comment and put your name in the hat for a chance at a signed copy of my book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook. The drawing will be tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. (EST), and the winner will be announced here tomorrow night.